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Cheltenham Tipping: Marcel can get Pipe of f to flyer; Nick Fox with the best bets on the opening day.

Byline: Nick Fox

TRUST Martin Pipe to get Marcel back to top form for the Letheby & Christopher Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2.00) at Cheltenham today.

The remarkable gelding has been on the go since August and, with nine wins from 11 starts, seems near invincible given ideal conditions, namely decent ground and a strong pace.

His two defeats have come on slow ground and/or off a slow pace, including a poor run at Exeter last time out. The ground was desperate that day, and the race was 40 seconds slower than the Racing Post standard time.

That cost him his position at the head of the market for the Festival opener, but fickle punters may rue deserting him.

Before Exeter, he'd put up a performance close to his best since coming over from France in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown. The fact he was only 14 seconds slower than the Racing Post standard time shows that underfoot conditions were much more conducive to a true test of racing ability than the mudbath he encountered at Exeter.

His other defeat was at Haydock, when a 2-5 shot in early December, when the ground wasn't bad but the pace was very slow. He was forced to make the running, which probably didn't suit either. One of his best performances, encouragingly for today, was when winning a Grade 2 over course and distance in November. Making it six from six in Britain, he came through off the good gallop to win with the minimum of fuss.

The biggest threat to Marcel today looks to come from the Irish. But I'm not sure whether the morning favourite Justified or the gambled-on Publican are more worrying than Wild Passion, who is a lot better than he showed behind Marcel at Sandown.

He'd beaten Justified on both his previous starts and has to be a saving bet.

forgive and forget

Marcel 2.00 7-1 generally


Wild Passion 2.00 10-1 generally

Nick Fox's nap

Joly Bey4.00 Cheltenham


Marcel (5): will be seen to better effect today than when beaten last time, with a sound surface and fast pace ensured
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 15, 2005
Previous Article:Plumpton: McCoy and Moore strike form at just the right moment.
Next Article:Cheltenham Tipping: pick of the morning prices.

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